For the unlucky souls who were unable to catch its much talked-about debut at the Big Dome back in 2012, Foster the People’s second Manila show was an absolute godsend. Not only did the band perform its award-winning album “Torches” almost in its entirety, Foster the People also dished out choice cuts from its two follow-up records in a glorious psychedelic mix of sounds that prove why there’s so much more to Mark Foster and company than just “Pumped Up Kicks.”
Mounted by Wilbros Live, the American alt-pop outfit’s Manila leg of their “Sacred Hearts Club” tour was held at Kia Theatre last Jan. 26. A scruffier, sexier Foster and his current bandmates (lead guitarist Sean Cimino, keyboardist Isom Innis and drummer Mark Pontius) promptly greeted their mostly millennial audience with the gritty rock riffs of “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon” off 2014’s “Supermodel.”
Accompanied by gorgeous (if a tad seizure-inducing) light shows, Foster’s whimsical, almost cartoon-y vocals soared and dipped through three albums’ worth of well-loved singles, flaunting elements of new wave synth-pop, old-school hip-hop and “indietronica” beats that had them enjoy mainstream success over the last seven years.
Even though “Torches” tracks practically ate up half of the band’s set list (to the delight of older fans), it was reassuring to see that the new tracks were similarly well received. The crowd jumped and sang along to “Are You What You Want to Be?” from “Supermodel” and “Doing It for the Money” from 2017’s “Sacred Hearts Club” with as much fervor as they did to early hits “Helena Beat,” “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls),” “Houdini” and “Call It What You Want.”
The band did indulge the crowd with a cover, effortlessly segueing into Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” after the frisky, Franz Ferdinand-esque track “Lotus Eater” off “Hearts.” But other than that, the guys religiously stuck to their all-original set list, changing it up only during extended solos and instrumentals that sampled a female voice speaking in Filipino and even singing Freddie Aguilar’s “Bayan Ko” at one point.
It wasn’t until well into the second half of the set that Foster started interacting with the audience. After dedicating the breezy, made-for-road-trips single “Coming of Age” (a grossly underrated song, in our opinion) to his No. 1 Filipino fan, the frontman launched into his senti spiel about being a “third-generation Foster.” He sat down on the piano and paid tribute to his forebears in “Ruby,” one of the rare ballads in his repertoire; like in the previous visit, Foster recounted how his boxer grandfather and hippie father had each lived in the Philippines for a short time over the decades, and how happy he was to get the chance to come here.
The band fired off one more mellow track—the sultry “Sit Next to Me,” perhaps the best single to come out of “Hearts”—before picking up speed with the hypnotic “Torches” track “Miss You.”
As far as welcome concert clichés go, the band ended its fun run with the song that started it all. It was slightly more up-tempo than we’d remembered, but other than that, “Pumped Up Kicks” still sounded as fresh and catchy as it did when it first invaded the airwaves years ago.
Apart from the additional new singles, the smaller, more intimate gig provided another advantage. In an impromptu face time with fans, Foster stayed behind onstage and took his sweet time signing albums and even a couple of sneakers before saying good night to Manila.
Please have us back, we’d love to come back, he said. If he keeps churning out more of these earworm hits, there’s a good chance they will be.